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I am a recovering Superwoman wannabee

People don't overclock well, says Phoummala Schmitt

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Sysadmin blog Working moms such as me often fall into the trap of the Superwoman syndrome. The Superwoman syndrome describes the woman that tries to achieve it all: the pursuit of a successful career and a happy family life.

The Superwoman can tackle any challenge thrown at her; she is invincible. She can carry all three kids on her back while wearing high heels, racking a server, and performing an Exchange migration in the blink of an eye. If it's cold outside, she can even knit you a blanket while the upgrade is completing.

Women in tech have it especially rough because not only are we raising our children, we are challenged in an industry where the jobs are more competitive and demanding with long hours. It's a tough game of male egos mixed with discrimination, stereotypes, and fears. If you want to succeed in IT, you need to work hard and play hard.

People don't overclock well

Women need to let go of the myth that we need to do it all, and I am no exception. I put everybody and my career above my own needs. I felt I had to keep up with my peers at work and meet the expectations I put on myself as a mother.

My early days in tech were bumpy. I struggled with stereotyped perceptions of women in IT that I thought I had overcome, but in reality I still had not. I felt - and still continue to feel - not equal to my colleagues. I had to prove myself to them to gain acceptance. Was it my own insecurities or the unknowing actions of my male colleagues that gave me this fear?

To be honest, probably a mixture of both.

If there were a support group for Recovering Superwoman wannabes, my name would be on the top of that list. I am a systems engineer by day and crazed workaholic mom by night. I'm the mom on the bleachers glued to her iPhone responding to emails and fixing server issues while at the football game. I'll be damned if I miss a child's activities or a miss a heartbeat at the office. I rarely use vacation days; they're for the kids.

It's just a scratch

Taking a day off for herself is not something an aspiring Superwoman does. I even scheduled an Endometrial Biopsy as a long lunch, no big deal; I had delivered a 10lb baby naturally, so this would be a piece of cake.

That's what I thought until the biopsy turned out to be a little more involved than expected, with just a local anesthetic and some Ibuprofen. I wiped the tears from my eyes and returned to work. Ladies, don't try this.

Take the afternoon off and crawl into bed with a nice heating pad. My fear of looking weak consumed me to the point that I would endure pain so I would not be thought of any less. When you work with all men the last thing you want to do is mention you have woman issues.

Once that happens you've been thrown off the bus and the idea you are one of the guys is out the door. I didn't want to be thrown off the bus; I still hadn't attained Superwoman status, my goal of a being an equal, someone who isn't dismissed or passed over for the promotion, so I had to press forward.

It wasn't until several weeks later that I realized how bad I had become. I was having surgery under general anesthesia, and when I awoke all I can remember was telling the nurse I was in pain and asking my husband to get my iPhone. Yep, I wasn't even awake for 10 minutes, and I wanted to look at my emails.

Everybody knew I was going to be out of the office for several days so there was no reason for me to check my emails. My own insecurities made me think that by not being available I would be looked at as underperforming and not as an equal. My husband knew better. He kept me drugged up so I wouldn't check my emails and get all stressed out.

In a way it was the intervention I needed to realize that I had to stop trying to be something that wasn't real. It didn't feel good, it didn't feel right at the time, but I needed to be stopped before I got any worse.

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